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‘The Language of Care’ and more at Sundance

After two years of a pandemic-friendly, virtual festival, we were delighted that Sundance Film Festival 2023 returned in person this January. And for the seventh year in a row, University of Utah Health was proud to be the festival’s Official Health & Wellness Partner. From Jan. 19-29, we extended our community to include the 100,000+ artists, creatives, industry insiders, and film lovers from around the globe, as well as the thousands of staff and volunteers who work so hard to make the magic happen.

So how do we promote health and wellness at Sundance? We trained staff and volunteers on de-escalation, provided health and wellness tips for our dry, high-altitude, winter climate, and placed trained professional in potentially triggering films. We also fostered conversations with the film community about important health topics and demonstrated how powerful the art of filmmaking can be to highlight the tragedies and triumphs of modern science and medicine.

And, of course, we make sure people know that if they need our health care services, we’re there for them.

Here are a few of our Sundance Film Festival 2023 highlights:

  • We elevated the importance of mental health and eliminating the stigma that surrounds simply asking for help.
    • Two Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmakers joined two experts from Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) to discuss trauma and PTSD at the Canon Creative House.
    • Jehane Noujaim and Matthew Heineman discussed their war-torn work in Egypt, Mexico, Syria, and Afghanistan with HMHI CEO Mark Rapaport, MD, and trauma expert Brooks Keeshin, MD.
    • The hour-long panel touched on harrowing tales of near-death experiences, the long-term effects of psychological trauma, and the resources available to cope with PTSD.
    • The fascinating discussion represents another step in HMHI’s mission to stop the stigma together, bringing advances in clinical care and mental health research to communities in need.
    • Stay tuned for a full video of the panel.
Six people sitting in chairs in a semi-circle all looking towards the woman signing on the right.


Panel for ‘The Language of Care,’ an emotional six-minute film about Deaf patients working with diabetes researchers to co-design care in American Sign Language. From left to right: Joe Borgenicht, director of strategic communication; Michelle Litchman, medical director, Intensive Diabetes Education and Support Program; Murdock Henderson, researcher; Angie Fagerlin, chair of Department of Population Health Sciences; Ross Kauffman, Oscar-winning director of ‘The Language of Care;’ Tamiko Rafeek, Deaf Diabetes Can Together Patient Advisory Board member.

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  • We harnessed the power of science, art, and storytelling to center the health needs of historically marginalized patients.
    • We premiered “The Language of Care,” an emotional six-minute film about Deaf patients working with diabetes researchers to co-design care in American Sign Language, at Filmmaker Lodge.
      • A thought-provoking panel followed, featuring health care providers, the Deaf patients they co-create with, and the filmmaker who captured their emotional stories.
    • We screened the first two films in U of U Health’s New Narratives in Health:
      • “Meet Me Where I Am” and “One in a Million,” with the main subjects and their families taking the stage to discuss the long-lasting impacts of these films on health policy and human-centered care.
  • We delivered wellness interventions to relieve physical and mental stress for the unsung heroes—the staff and volunteers—of Sundance Film Festival.
    • Massage therapists from the S. Skaggs Patient Wellness Center provided more than 250 soothing chair massages.
      • Centrally located inside Festival Headquarters at the Park City Sheraton, these free 10-minute massages gave hard-working Sundance Film Festival staff, volunteers, and artists the chance to unwind and decompress before returning to their important work refreshed and rejuvenated.
  • We shared our expertise about Parkinson’s disease.
    • We partnered with the Utah Film Commission and enlisted our experts to join a Q&A after the screening of “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie.” The co-directors of the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence at the University of Utah fielded questions from the audience about the disease that struck the beloved actor as well as an estimated one million Americans.
  • We thanked our community.
    • We capped off our partnership with a screening of “Going Varsity in Mariachi,” which won Sundance Film Festival 2023’s Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award.
      • The joyful documentary follows a group of high school students in South Texas as they learn new instruments, navigate personal challenges, and come together as a team to compete in their ultra-competitive state championships.
      • More than 200 community leaders, state and local legislators, and U of U Health executives mingled at a pre-show reception before lining up below the Sundance Film Festival 2023 marquee at Broadway Cinemas.
  • We collaborated with other Sundance Film Festival partners who share our commitment to health and wellness.
    • We co-hosted restorative morning yoga and sound baths at the Canada Goose Base Camp. These sessions carved out a calming space amidst the hustle and bustle of Main Street in Park City for relaxation and intention. Rumor has it a famous actress or two even started their busy days us!